The Matthew Publishes Book to Celebrate 20 Years

Posted on 20/06/17 by Hazel

Bristol icon The Matthew is celebrating 20 years of sailing this year and is marking the occasion with the publication of a book documenting her construction, the re-enactment of John Cabot’s voyage of discovery, and her travels since then.

Cover of the new book 'The Matthew of Bristol'

On the 2nd of May 1997, The Matthew began her intrepid voyage in the wake of John Cabot some 500 years earlier. The faithful representation of the Tudor caravel was constructed between 1994 and 1996 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s historic trip across the Atlantic from Bristol to Newfoundland.

“We marked the 20th anniversary of the ship starting her voyage to Newfoundland back in May, with some of the people that helped make it happen, as well as our current volunteer crew.” Says Hazel Hatton, Office & Marketing Manager at The Matthew of Bristol

“On the 24th of June 1997, she landed on the other side of the Atlantic in Newfoundland, and we’d love to invite the people of Bristol to help us celebrate the 20th anniversary of this landmark, as well as the launch of this new book.”

To mark the event, Gig rowing clubs from across Bristol will tow The Matthew through Bristol’s Floating Harbour. This is the traditional method that large sailing ships would have used to get out of the harbour to open sea, where the sails could be used. The modern Matthew has an engine for this, but this will be how she would have started her voyage in 1497 and ended it back in Bristol in 1498.

You can watch the spectacle and cheer on the rowers from 3pm on Saturday the 24th of June. Books will be available to purchase at £14.00 from The Matthew’s mooring just outside M Shed on Prince’s Wharf, Wapping Road, Bristol, BS1 4RN.

Many Bristolians will remember the construction and launching of the modern Matthew at Redcliffe Wharf in the mid-’90s. First launched in September 1995, it took nearly two years of fitting out and sea trials to prepare her for the journey across the Atlantic to Newfoundland.

Returning to Bristol in 1998, the Matthew has since become an iconic Bristol landmark – with a woollen representation, part of Briswool, joining other famous depictions of the Matthew such as the stained glass window in St Mary Redcliffe Church, the grand painting that hangs in Bristol Museum commemorating the original voyage, and many murals across the city. 

“Although young in historical terms, she's developed a fascinating story all of her own,” says author and social historian Clive Burlton from Bristol Books. “I have loved delving into the archives, leafing through documents and photographs, and speaking to so many people who hold the ship dear to their hearts.”

“There's tremendous affection for The Matthew, not only here in Bristol, but in Canada where she also has iconic status. From the germ of an idea in the 1980s to one of Bristol's greatest present-day treasures, the story of The Matthew of Bristol has been a joy to research and write. With 150 photographs, maps and sketches I hope people will enjoy reading the book as much as I have enjoyed writing it.”